One of the most amazing things about modern technology is the way it removes distance. You no longer have to leave your home to shop -- Amazon will deliver whatever you need. WebEx and GoToMeeting mean you don't have to leave your office for a product demo, while webinars and MOOCs mean you won't have to enter a lecture hall to get educated. You no longer need to meet with a person face to face to see them - Skype takes care of that.
Given all of that, you'd think that the trade show or professional conference would be on the way out. After all, there are easier (and cheaper) ways to get CPE credits, and less time-consuming ways to research new software solutions. And simple reading is an excellent way to learn just about any of the things you might pick up from a PowerPoint presentation.
I was thinking of all these things in early November as I headed down to Accounting Today's annual Growth & Profitability Summit, which was held this year in Boca Raton, Fla., and I wondered why, despite all the changes technology has wrought, the industry event hangs on.
On my way back from GroPro, though, I knew exactly why.
It's because there are two things you can't get anywhere except at a meeting of your fellow professionals. The first is serendipity -- the chance meeting in the hallway, the lucky question that opens up a new direction of thought, the unpredictable interplay of timing and presence. Like the four speakers who served on a panel at the start of the conference, and spent the next two days attending sessions together as a team and sharing ideas. Or the partners who stumbled across a solution to their succession planning issues in the exhibit hall. Or the way two sole practitioners in a workshop group bond when they discover that neither of them can find a successor among their staff with the same drive and ambition they have -- and then learn a trick or two for motivating employees from a third group member. Or the firm administrator who asks whether a speaker can suggest a better phone system, and gets 10 recommendations from other attendees.
The second thing you can't get alone in your office or staring into a computer screen is your fellow accountants themselves. LinkedIn groups and tweetups and the like are great, but they are no substitute for in-person interaction with a wide range of accountants from a wide range of firm sizes and specialties. Where else would you be able to gather together so many of the Best Firms to Work For, or a critical mass of accounting marketers, or such a large number of users of a particular software?
I've said before in this space that no profession I know of is as generous with its time and advice as accounting, and this is nowhere better displayed than at a live event, with CPAs spending hours preparing presentations and flying across the country to share their expertise with their fellow accountants, who then share their own personal experiences with one another. These events are indispensable to a profession that wants to see its members make the most of themselves and their practices.
If all this sounds like I'm touting our GroPro Summit -- well, I am. We think it's a great event, and we work hard to make sure it gets better every year. But our editors attend dozens of events every year, from American Institute of CPAs' mega-conferences to small regional gatherings, and they all without exception offer the sort of insight and wisdom that can only be find live and in person.
So whether it's the 2015 GroPro or the AICPA's Prac/Tech or a local state society MAP meeting, I can't encourage you enough to get out there and meet your fellow practitioners -- you'll be glad you did, and so will they!
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